Historical K-dramas (a.k.a sageuk) are so intriguing to watch as they let viewers get a glimpse of South Korea's past while also serving all the elements we've come to know and love in our fave dramas. Whether you're watching a cute romance, heart-wrenching melodrama, or action-packed thriller, you'll see it set against a rich backdrop of ancient Korean architecture, breathtaking landscapes, and colorful traditional costumes. Fusion sageuks can even incorporate a touch of fantasy as well, and we're totally here for them!
Here are our fave historical K-dramas from recent years:
1. Mr. Queen (2020)
When temperamental Blue House chef Jang Bong Hwan (Jin Hyuk) finds himself framed for a crime he didn't commit, he attempts to escape the people looking for him. After a series of mishaps, he wakes up in the Joseon era—inside the body of Queen Cheorin (Hye Sun). Hilarity ensues as Bong Hwan tries to adjust to living life in the past, and as female royalty at that. "She" catches the eye of King Cheoljong (Jung Hyun), Cheorin's husband, and even gets involved in a political power struggle. Will Bong Hwan find a way to go back to the present time?
2. Lovers Of The Red Sky (2021)
In this epic romance fantasy, Hong Cheon Gi (Yoo Jung) and Ha Ram (Hyo Seop) are two unfortunate souls bound by fate. Cheon Gi is a talented painter blessed by the gods who uses her skills to earn money and take care of her sick father. Born blind, she suddenly regains her eyesight years later. Meanwhile, Ha Ram gets possessed by the Demon King and loses his eyesight as a child. Fast-forward to the present, and now, he’s an astrologer with unseeing (but *extremely* charismatic) red eyes who also has a penchant for divination. When the two of them meet, they start falling for each other, but their fragile relationship is about to undergo the test of a lifetime.
3. Bossam: Steal The Fate (2021)
Who's in it: Jung Il Woo, Kwon Yuri, Shin Hyun Soo
MBN released this drama to celebrate their 10th anniversary, and it became their most successful drama yet with the highest ratings ever. Actor Jung Il Woo plays scruffy Ba Woo, a con man who earns his keep through bossam, the act of kidnapping a widow and giving her to a man for another marriage. His world turns upside-down when he accidentally kidnaps King Kwang Hae’s widowed daughter, Su Kyeong (Yuri). Now, they must go on the run, taking Ba Woo's son, Cha Dol, with them. As the drama unfolds, Ba Woo's secrets also start unraveling.
4. The King's Affection (2021)
This rom-com features an idol-filled cast, among them SF9's Rowoon, Victon's Byung Chan, and former I.O.I and DIA member Chae Yeon (we're blinded by their gorgeous faces, TBH). Hot Stove League and Do You Like Brahms? star Park Eun Bin leads the pack as protagonist Dam Yi, Crown Prince Lee Hwi's twin sister, who ends up having to live as him after he dies. Trouble comes in the form of Jung Ji Woon (Rowoon), her first love, who gets hired as her royal tutor. Dam Yi struggles to hide her identity as her affection for Ji Woon continues to blossom.
5. Secret Royal Inspector Joy (2021)
In this fun comedy, 2PM's Taecyeon plays Ra Ian, an aspiring dumpling shop owner who passes the state exam and somehow becomes an unwilling secret royal inspector. His perspective on his work changes when he meets Kim Joy (Hye Yoon). A smart woman with an infectious zest for life, she struggles to divorce her gambler husband. She encounters Ian just as she's finalizing her divorce, and the two of them make a brilliant duo as they investigate cases together.
6. The Red Sleeve (2021)
Who’s in it: Lee Junho, Lee Se Young, Kang Hoon
This award-winning series also won several awards for its star-studded cast, among them a Best Actor award for protagonist Lee Junho at the prestigious Baeksang Arts Awards. The story is based on a novel about the royal court romance between King Jeongjo and the royal concubine Uibin Seong, both figures in South Korean history. The drama focuses on King Jeongjo's (Junho) struggles to become a good king while trying to win the love of Seong Deok Im (Se Young), a court lady who wishes to remain free instead of becoming the king's concubine.
7. Bloody Heart (2022)
This drama is a feast for the eyes with its stellar cinematography. It's also a recipe for heartache, so prepare the tissues as you watch all the drama unfold. The story revolves around Lee Tae (Joon), son of deposed King Seonjong. He ascends the throne as a puppet ruler under the first vice premier Park Gye Won (Hyuk), the real leader of Joseon. He lives his life seeking revenge, but his problems don't end there. He has a clandestine relationship with noblewoman Yoo Jung (Han Na of Start-Up fame), but he’s also hiding secrets from her. It's only a matter of time before this house of cards falls.
8. Alchemy Of Souls (2022)
The Hong Sisters, a famous writing duo, penned this fusion sageuk set in the fictional land of Daeho where mages can exchange souls with someone else to survive. Shadow assassin Naksu (So Min) finds herself going through soul shifting, and she wakes up in the body of Mu Deok, servant to noble Jang Uk (Jae Wook). He's a member of the powerful Jang family of mages, but he's shunned because of his lack of magic. As the story progresses, we get to meet the other mage families, including Seo Yul (Mihyun), the seemingly perfect mage from the noble Seo family. The drama's humor is on point, and the CG is pretty impressive, so if you're looking for a sageuk to add to your ~currently watching~ list, make sure to catch Alchemy Of Souls on Netflix.
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